Sunday, May 20, 2007

Eastern Pa. spa lets patients preserve own stem cells

The Associated Press
EASTON, Pa. - A township medical spa that specializes in skin care and anti-aging programs is now collecting and storing adult stem cells through a new procedure used in only two other clinics nationwide.

Azani Medical Spa announced an agreement with New York-based NeoStem that will make the spa the first in the region to collect adult stem cells. Once collected, they will be stored at a laboratory in Los Angeles.

Patients at Azani Medical Spa can undergo a three-hour procedure in which a stimulating agent activates the body's stem cell production and then the cells are removed by drawing blood and cryogenically freezing the cells, said Dr. Monica Gavin, who founded the spa in September 2005.

The procedure costs roughly $6,750, and NeoStem stores the stem cells for an annual $400 fee.

The procedure has significant benefits, Gavin said, noting that a body won't reject cells that come from the same body's tissue.

NeoStem president Mark Weinreb said the cells have a long life expectancy and will outlive many of their patients. The stem cells deteriorate by about 3 percent every 20 years, Weinreb said.

Stem cells are used to treat chronic congestive heart failure, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease and heal wounds, among other uses.

Dr. Robin Smith, CEO and chairman of NeoStem, said more than 700 clinical trials are investigating future stem cell applications.

"Every day there are new stories of people looking at stem cells as a mainstay for therapy," Smith said.

Kevin Mannix, a former Penn State University football player who played for the 1975 team, said he has decided to preserve his stem cells because his father died from a heart attack at a young age.

When he initially investigated stem cell storage, he was deterred because of the invasive procedure that used a bone marrow transplant from the hip and had a five-day recovery time. The new procedure has quelled his uncertainties.

"This seemed to be the most sound and reasonable option to protect my future. I am definitely a believer in being proactive for my health. I go to the gym and maintain a healthy diet and this I felt is the natural progression," said Mannix, a consultant with NeoStem who lives in Long Island, N.Y.

Although NeoStem patients have not yet requested to use their adult stem cells, Lehigh Valley Hospital spokesman Matthew Burns said an orthopedic surgeon there repaired a rotator cuff with stem cells.

"Basically we helped repair this gentleman's shoulder with his own stem cells. They injected his own stem cells into his shoulder," he said.

While patient Gary Davis had undergone surgery twice before, he told hospital personnel that the stem cell therapy resulted in a quicker recovery time and greater shoulder flexibility.

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